Yesterday Google released it's 'Streetview' service in the UK. This allows people who use Google's mapping website to look at panoramic photographs of the areas covered.
The first place that I looked was for my house, sadly the Google camera car stopped one street away. I looked for my Mum's house, and again the photographs stopped one street away.
Then I looked for my ambulance station.
All very clever, and as the streets are public, not a problem. Anyone with nefarious purposes are better served by actually visiting the place in question. For example, in these pictures of our station, you can't see the security cameras…
But then I thought about the road outside Newham hospital, had the camera car been down there?
Sure enough they had, and what was shown was a patient being unloaded from an ambulance.
Now, I'm not too sure if the road that the hospital on is public property or not, but ethically there is surely an expectation of privacy when you are on an ambulance or being wheeled into A&E? It is this expectation of privacy which is important1.
Being a bit busy I just twittered about it and thought nothing more about it.
However it would seem that someone with a bit more energy behind their ethical standing took notice of it and reported the image to Google, and being generally good guys, they quickly removed it.
Then today I saw exactly the same picture printed in The Metro, with a screaming headline about privacy concerns. Really, if they were that concerned about privacy, they shouldn't have printed the picture along with the story…
I suspect that someone on the Metro reads my twitter feed (actually, I personally know someone who does, but they are quite smart and are unlikely to have been involved in printing the picture). But what it does show is the surprising speed of information via various 'social media' networks.
For those that listen along, the next Podcast thing is up where I apologise for the delay between 'casts and read the next half an hour of my first book. You can find it here.